Beoning [Burning] (2018)

Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writer: Jungmi Oh, Chang-dong Lee
Based on: Haruki Murakami‘s short story Barn Burning
Cast: Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun, Soo-Kyung Kim, Seung-ho Choi
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2018

Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo) meets Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun) again by chance: they grew up in the same neighborhood when they were kids and are now both pretty much on their own in the big city. Hae-mi asks Jong-su to watch her cat while she goes on a trip to Africa. As he is quite smitten with her, he gladly agrees. When she returns, though, things don’t really take the romantic turn Jong-su had hoped for. Instead Hae-mi introduces him to Ben (Steven Yeun) who she met on the trip. Jong-su is in euqal parts jealous of and fascinated by the richer, suave Ben who he doesn’t trust at all.

Burning starts off well but loses steam in the last third or so, leaving me with an overall feeling of disappointment: despite many good qualities, the film could have been more in my opinion.

The film poster showing a man in a hoody running through a sunset landscape.

The first part of the film, where Jong-su meets Hae-mi worked very well for me. I thought their meeting was done well and I enjoyed watching them grow closer. And I felt very much with Jong-su when Ben is suddenly there and it’s not really clear what role he plays in Hae-mi’s life. (Did I want to suggest that they just become a throuple? Yes, yes, all the time.)

The second part of the film where it’s all about who Ben is and what his intentions are, was also very interesting and I followed things closely there as well. But after Hae-mi’s gone (by the way, I felt Jong-su’s remark like a slap myself, it was such a good moment), my interest started to wane as well.

Three young people (Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun) sitting on a porch.

I was also not exactly enthusiastic about the (apparent) solution to the mystery and the ending itself was a complete let-down. Maybe if the film had become a little faster towards the end or had been a little shorter overall, I wouldn’t have minded that much, but that way, I left the film with a distinct meh feeling that overshadowed the really strong start – and the amazing cast, especially Steven Yeun and Ah-in Yoo who really have the meaty parts and play them with relish.

A young woman (Jong-seo Jun) making a funny face in a restaurant.

Summarizing: Worth a try – maybe you’ll like the last part better than I did.

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